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Danon Disease Treatment & Management

  • Author: Keith K Vaux, MD; Chief Editor: Maria Descartes, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 09, 2016

Medical Care

Patients with Danon disease require frequent follow-up, with particular attention to the potential for atrial or ventricular arrhythmias and congestive heart failure (CHF). As is recommended in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a ventricular septal thickness more than 30 mm is considered a risk factor for a life-threatening event, particularly in this group of patients who often have a poor prognosis for survival beyond their teenage years.[32]

An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) may be indicated. However, in Maron’s study, all 7 patients had ICDs and 5 had lethal arrhythmias that did not convert with ICD therapy.[15] However, not all of those patients died from the arrhythmia. In addition, 4 of those 7 actually died of CHF. CHF must be treated according to the hemodynamic cause for the symptoms. For example, patients with HCM have a relatively restrictive physiology with diastolic dysfunction and should be treated accordingly (ie, improving ventricular filling, improved heart rate control, sinus rhythm maintenance, improved diastolic relaxation); whereas, those with a dilated form of cardiomyopathy tend to have a systolic dysfunction problem that may require different treatment (ie, improved afterload reduction and increased contractility).


Surgical Care

Several surgical interventions should be considered in patients with Danon disease. The proper timing of any of these interventions is not known; however, the risk of sudden death in teenage male patients appears to be substantial. This risk may influence decisions about the timing of surgical interventions.

  • Implantable loop recorder (ILR)
  • This device is implanted under the skin to record any arrhythmias that may happen when cardiovascular symptoms occur.
    • The usual indication is an assessment of severe symptoms that occur too infrequently to be recorded by using conventional, external event recorders.
    • The battery in one device (Reveal Plus; Medtronic, Minneapolis, MN) lasts for 14 months. It can be automatically activated when the programmed parameters of the device are satisfied. It can also be activated when the patient has symptoms. An activator that the patient carries is placed over the device, and a button is pushed to activate the ILR.
  • ICD placement
    • After Danon disease and severe hypertrophic changes of the heart are diagnosed, placement of an ICD should be considered. For patients who have the dilated form of cardiomyopathy, ICDs may be indicated because of the degree of their dysfunction and their history of arrhythmias.
    • Recommendations from the Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial (SCD-HeFT) trial apply to these patients.[33]
    • Furthermore, if the degree of CHF has progressed to New York Heart Association class III or IV with maximal medical therapy (eg, beta-blockers, afterload reduction, spironolactone, diuretics), placement of a biventricular pacing system, usually a biventricular ICD, should be considered.[34]
  • Cardiac transplantation
  • Several reports mention patients with Danon disease who underwent cardiac transplantation.[20, 14, 11, 24, 15]
    • Cardiac transplant should be considered as long-term treatment because the life expectancy is short.[19] Consideration of cardiac transplantation is necessary because of the limited life expectancy of teenaged male patients, who have a high incidence of sudden death. Maron et al even recommend consideration of early transplant.[15]
    • In addition, female patients may need a cardiac transplant because they are not expected to live past their fifth decade.
    • Cardiac transplantation is a reasonable treatment for Danon disease despite the presence of muscular problems because the neurologic disability or problems are mild.


Because of the severe nature of this disease and the short life expectancy in male patients, extensive counseling and education with the patient and family is important. When an ICD or cardiac transplantation is contemplated, psychiatric counseling may be needed. Dealing with these issues may be particularly challenging if the patient has clinically significant mental retardation.

Consultation with a neurologist is recommended to assess the degree of skeletal myopathy and cognitive deficiencies.

Genetic consultation regarding molecular testing and genetic counseling is important.



For the most part, no dietary restrictions are necessary for Danon disease. However, when the patient has symptoms of CHF, sodium restriction may be beneficial. Caffeine can potentially aggravate any underlying tachyarrhythmia.



Competitive athletic activity should be restricted for individuals with Danon disease and cardiomyopathy as recommended in the 36th Bethesda Conference: Eligibility Recommendations for Competitive Athletes With Cardiovascular Abnormalities.[35] Exceptions include activities classified as I-A, which include low-intensity sports with low static and low dynamic components, such as billiards, bowling, or golf.

As for noncompetitive activity, leisurely activities (eg, using an exercise bike or treadmill, playing doubles tennis, cycling at low intensity) are permitted in patients with HCM. The premise is that patients engaging in low-intensity activities are more apt than others to respond to the onset of warning symptoms.[36]

From a neurologic standpoint, male patients with Danon disease may exercise the skeletal muscles. However, they should avoid excessive fatigue, which could cause muscle injury.[37]

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Keith K Vaux, MD Professor of Medicine, Clinical Chief and Division Director, Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine; Director, Rare Disease Program, Rady Children's Hospital San Diego and UC San Diego

Keith K Vaux, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, Western Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Maria Descartes, MD Professor, Department of Human Genetics and Department of Pediatrics, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine

Maria Descartes, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, American Medical Association, American Society of Human Genetics, Society for Inherited Metabolic Disorders, International Skeletal Dysplasia Society, Southeastern Regional Genetics Group

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

James Bowman, MD Senior Scholar of Maclean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, Professor Emeritus, Department of Pathology, University of Chicago

James Bowman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Society of Human Genetics, Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research, College of American Pathologists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

David Flannery, MD, FAAP, FACMG Vice Chair of Education, Chief, Section of Medical Genetics, Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Medical College of Georgia

David Flannery, MD, FAAP, FACMG is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Christopher C Erickson, MD Associate Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, Electrophysiology and Pacing, University of Nebraska College of Medicine; Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Creighton University School of Medicine

Christopher C Erickson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, Cardiac Electrophysiology Society, International Society for Holter and Noninvasive Electrocardiology, and Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. Janice L McAllister, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Nebraska College of Medicine; Consulting Staff, University of Nebraska Medical Associates, St Joseph Hospital, Children's Hospital of Omaha

Janice L McAllister, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology and Child Neurology Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Stanley J Radio, MD Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Stanley J Radio, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Society of Cytopathology, College of American Pathologists, and International Academy of Pathology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Echocardiogram of a patient with Danon disease and severe hypertrophy. The septum is between the arrows. Note the asymmetry between the septum and the posterior wall of the left ventricle. Also see Media files 2-3. Calibration markings are in centimeters. Ao = ascending aorta just above the aortic valve; LV = left ventricle; LVPW = left ventricular posterior wall.
Echocardiogram, short-axis view in diastole, in the same patient as in Media files 1 and 3. Because of the degree of hypertrophy, the cavitary volume is smaller than normal. Calibration markings are in centimeters. Ao = ascending aorta just above the aortic valve; LV = left ventricle; LVPW = left ventricular posterior wall.
Echocardiogram, short-axis view in systole, in the same patient as in Media files 1-2. Note the increased thickening of the septum. Calibration markings are in centimeters. Ao = ascending aorta just above the aortic valve; LV = left ventricle; LVPW = left ventricular posterior wall.
Horizontal ventricular sections of the heart from 16-year-old male adolescent with Danon disease obtained after orthotopic cardiac transplantation. Massive hypertrophy is present (heart weight, 785 g), with diffuse severe fibrosis and marked ventricular dilatation.
Myocyte hypertrophy and vacuolization with interstitial fibrosis in the myocardium of a heart removed during cardiac transplantation (periodic acid-Schiff [PAS] stain; original magnification, X400).
Electron photomicrograph shows autophagic vacuoles with glycogen in a heart removed during cardiac transplantation (uranyl acetate and Reynolds lead citrate; original magnification X20,000).
Electron photomicrograph shows increased amounts of intermyofibrillar glycogen in the myocardium (uranyl acetate and Reynolds lead citrate; original magnification, X13,000).
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